Football News

Hungary manager Marco Rossi claims Attila Szalai to Chelsea is a “done deal”

By Ben Green

Published: 11:02, 7 December 2021

Hungary manager Marco Rossi has publicly declared Fenerbahce centre-back Attila Szalai is joining Chelsea in the January transfer window.

The 23-year-old only moved to Istanbul last January from Apollon Limassol but a big move to the Premier League could be on just 12 months later.

Chelsea’s pursuit of a new centre-back has been well-documented after a summer move for Sevilla defender Jules Kounde collapsed.

The European champions saw centre-back duo Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori leave permanently in the summer to West Ham and AC Milan respectively.

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Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger will all see their contracts expire at the end of the season.

Given Thomas Tuchel’s preference for a back-three, a potential move for Szalai, who plays in a similar system at Fenerbahce, therefore makes sense.

And Hungary coach Rossi has now suggested a deal involving the 6ft 4in defender to Stamford Bridge is all but over the line.

Rossi told Calciomercato: “It’s hard to name just one player, but right now I see very well Attila Szalai, who plays for Fenerbahce, but I think he is joining Chelsea.

“Clearly, he has been followed by important clubs in Spain, but apparently his move to Chelsea is a done deal. He would be a great player also for Italian football.”

There is certainly a reason why Tuchel would be keeping tabs on the Budapest-born defender, not least because of his adaptability and competence in a back-three.

This season in the Turkish Super Lig, Szalai currently ranks fourth among centre-backs for final third passes attempted (134) and fifth for long passes (118).

But, beyond his ball-playing credentials, Szalai also ranks fifth for possessions won in the middle third (33), highlighting his penchant for advancing up the turf.

In Tuchel’s system, fluidity is the buzzword, with players expected to circulate the ball quickly and push up the pitch to stifle the opposition.

Szalai, despite his towering frame, appears to fit the archetype and could offer a marriage of physicality and ball-playing competence under the German coach.

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